By Nick Blakeley
July 28, 2022

Speaking with authority seems to come more naturally to some than others. Ever been in a meeting, convinced you’ve got the answers, but someone else just seems able to push their idea that bit harder? Or an interview for your perfect job but feel that you’re not convincing them?

Remember: do not confuse authority with being confrontational or aggressive. Dropping into those tones will rarely get the results that you want - we might follow Miss Trunchbull’s rules but we won’t be content doing so!

1. Posture

It is hard to be inspired by someone whose body tells you they are tired, uninspired or nervous. Addressing your posture can really change your audience’s perception of you. Most of us spend too much time at our desks so a bit of a slouch with rounded shoulders has become our default. Try thinking about ‘growing an inch’ by pulling your shoulders back and making your spine a bit more upright. Imagine there is a string from the top of your head and someone is just gently pulling it.

Film yourself: Firstly, don’t worry about your posture. Speak about something you’re passionate about for 30 seconds - it could be a hobby, a person that inspires you or a food (always my choice!).

Now, try the speech again. Same topic. But ‘grow an inch’ before you start and try to hold onto that posture.

Watch the two videos back. How do you come across differently? Did the words you use change?

Finally, think about how you felt differently. Good posture and body language can lead to increased self esteem. You’ll find that you’ll not only convince your listener more, but you will actually feel more confident in yourself too.

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2. Vocal gravity

To speak with authority, our ideas need to really land with the listener. To do this most effectively, we need to think about how we’re using inflection (the way our voice goes up or down).

Record yourself saying the following phrase twice. First, try going up at the end of the sentence. Then try going down.

"I really believe this is the best way forward."

Listen back. Which version are you most convinced by?

Going up at the end of the sentence is what we often use for questions, so can make us appear uncertain. When a speaker use downward inflection, the idea reaches its destination more strongly and they sound both convinced and convincing. It is like throwing a ball to your listener…it begins with you, can go up in the middle, but needs to come down to be received.

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3. Word value

Words are not all born equal - some have a lot more impact than others. Think about when you are in a rush to read something and you scan through the words…you have to work hard to decide what you should take in. When you’re speaking, you should do this hard work for the listener. This is useful for any tone that you want to achieve but to speak with authority, really using the high value words and putting some power into them will allow your confidence in what you’re saying really shine through.

For example, look at this sentence from Gina Martin’s TED Talk, They Told Me to Change My Clothes. I Changed the Law Instead:

"But the answer is not about perfection, it’s about progress, it’s about doing it because it's the right thing to do."

Say it out loud. Then have another look. Let’s be really conscious of which words have the highest value. I’d go for these:

"But the answer is not about perfection, it’s about progress, it’s about doing it because it's the right thing to do."

Say it out loud again and show the value of these words in how you say them. Try and make those words last a bit longer and put a bit of intention into them. This sentence is a call to action and to make it sound authoritative you might want to put a bit of volume into those words and enjoy saying them!

 

Next time you’re aiming to speak with authority, try using these tools and do let us know how you get on. And remember: don’t turn into Trunchbull!

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